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Your Kids’ Identities Just Got Safer

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Privacy advocates – and parents – have a lot to celebrate. Last week, the updated Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, went into effect — providing greater online privacy protections for children under the age of 13. The new law updates a decade-old law that couldn’t keep up with the era of smartphones and social media.

Websites and apps are required to get parental consent for collecting personal information about children 13 and younger. What has changed is the definition of “personal information.”

Under COPPA, personal information now includes children’s:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Voice recordings
  • IP addresses
  • GPS location data in mobile phone

This means that parental permission is required for social network-sharing, advertising data-mining and third-party plug-ins like Facebook “likes” and Google “pluses.”

What COPPA Means for Your Kids

Children won’t experience behavior-based advertising that tracks their every move on the Internet, as long as parents don’t provide consent. And their geo-location data—where they live, what places they visit, where they go to school—can’t be tracked without express consent as well.

In an age where 50 percent of young adults access the Internet mainly on their mobile phone, according to the Pew Research Center, it’s a big win for parents who don’t want their kids’ every step logged in a hidden data center. COPPA essentially draws a line on when data collection companies can start building online dossiers on future consumers.

The new provisions will take some time to kick in, and the Federal Trade Commission has hinted that it will provide some leeway in the adoption period.

The updated COPPA is far from perfect, but it brings meaningful change regarding the regulation of children’s data and the impact that has on their online and mobile lives. Ideally these increased privacy protections and consent requirements would apply to everyone regardless of age. It’s not likely that will happen. Too much money is involved. But it’s worth fighting for.

Image: iStockphoto

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